Crashing the Net: Game Day edition vs. Toronto

Oct 17, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Corey Tropp (26) battles for the puck against Calgary Flames defenseman Ladislav Smid (15) during the second period at Nationwide Arena.

Aaron Doster/Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus, OH – Halting the three game skid is forefront in the minds of the Blue Jackets as they host the Toronto Maple Leafs this evening. Of the five losses suffered this season, they were competitive in four of them.

But it’s the little things that are tripping them as they look for ways to play a complete 60 minute game. Whether it is mental lapses or taking a shift off, they are trying to minimize mistakes.

"We’ve lost three in a row," said head coach Todd Richards, "and we’ve played good hockey at times, but there hasn’t been that consistency. For us, it’s getting back to that consistent hockey and finding ways to win games."

That has proved a bit elusive for Columbus as they hit double-digits in number of games played. Although they are trying different things, they aren’t in need of a major overhaul yet.

"We’ve had to try different things," said Richards, "just because of all the injuries that we’re dealing with. Systematically, we haven’t changed, we’re not tweaking anything. I think we just have to be more aware of what’s going on in the game."

That awareness has to permeate throughout the lineup, from the cagey veterans to the newest rookie. One of the veterans that understands this principle is Scott Hartnell.  He’s been around the block and doesn’t pull any punches in his assessment.

"Teams are too good in this league to have an ‘off’ ten minutes of the game," Hartnell said. "We have to be focused and ready to play for 60 minutes. And, we haven’t been the last few games. We’re in games and then let them pass. You can’t do that."

While the team says that the injuries are not an excuse with eight regular players out of the lineup (Foligno will play tonight), it has to have some effect on how they are playing. The majority of the players on Injured Reserve are from the top six of the forward corps. Some players are now being put in a position where they might be playing above where they normally would. Sink or swim seems to be the new mantra within the friendly confines.

"We need to take care of the little things all over the ice every shift," Jack Skille said. "We have to make sure that we don’t steer away from our game plan. We get into trouble when we start forcing things."

"It’s doing the simple things that will wear the other teams down. It’s when we get away from those things that we get ourselves in trouble."

The expectation is that the team will play to their strengths by keeping the game simple and playing with pace. Can they be disciplined enough to play a full 60 minute game of Blue Jacket hockey? We’ll find out Friday evening. The puck drops at 7 p.m.

Randy Carlyle on the Blue Jackets…

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle knows better than to overlook the Blue Jackets, despite their injury woes. The Leafs find themselves in seventh place in the Atlantic Division, with their power play ranked 20th in the league (Columbus ranked 17th) and their penalty kill are ninth (Blue Jackets ranked 24th). He knows Columbus can be a dangerous team.

"We’re not in a position to overlook anybody," Carlyle said, "it’s as simple as that. Obviously, we haven’t played to the level that we think we can."

"We know, coming into this building, they are a hockey club that have played very, very well here. Their last game here, they outshot Ottawa 14-3 in the first period. So they don’t sit back and wait for things to happen. They dictate the pace and they come after you."

Blue Jackets lines

Forwards:

Hartnell/Johansen/Atkinson

Foligno/Wennberg/Skille

Dano/Chaput/Tropp

Boll/Cracknell/Collins

Defense:

Johnson/Tyutin

Prout/Erixon

Savard/Murray

Goaltender: McElhinney with Forsberg as backup.